JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville State football team underwent its first two-a-day practice on Tuesday, making one more step for the Gamecocks in their preparations for the 2012 opener at Arkansas on Sept. 1.
A JSU roster that features more than 50 freshmen and sophomores went through a morning session and an evening practice on Tuesday, working on two-minute drills and other situational drills. Head coach Jack Crowe expects Tuesday to be another step in progressing his young roster.
"There's going to be a different demand put on some young players," Crowe said. "I'm very interested to see who's really got the will to make contact and keep fighting. It starts to wear on you when you go twice a day and you start getting that mental toughness factor. While you're fresh and it's new and all of that excitement is there is one thing, but games are about four quarters and seasons are about 12 weeks, so you have to have some sustainability. That's what we are getting into now."
Crowe has been pleased with those younger players, calling this class of newcomers one of the most talented he has had in his 12 seasons at JSU. He hopes that their first two-a-day practice will allow some a chance to step forward into contention for a spot on the team's depth chart.
"I have great expectations for our young guys," Crowe added. "I've tried to go slow with them to get an evaluation that I can really stay with over a period of time before I've overloaded them. Today is probably the very first overload, and it's about to get real heavy on them. I'm anxious to see what comes out of them when they've had more put on them than they've probably had to handle before."
Along with the young guys, the Gamecocks do return several veterans. The offensive line features five players that have started there, and the offensive backfield got a boost with the return of junior quarterback Coty Blanchard on Tuesday. The Leesburg, Ala., native was back on the practice field for the first time after finishing his summer playing for the Falmouth Commodores in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Blanchard hit .264 with six doubles and 15 RBI, while stealing eight bases to lead the Commodores to the playoffs.
"It's great to have Coty out here," Crowe said. "I've known Coty since he was 12 years old. He loves this place and he lights up when he walks onto the field, just because of the place and his heritage here. Just him walking out here brought a little excitement. He thought he was going to step out here and do everything on the first day, but he can't. We have to get his arm to where he's throwing a football again instead of a baseball. He's got to get in rhythm of what the particulars of running the offense are, which he did a great job of last year."
The Gamecocks will practice once on Wednesday before a second two-a-day workout on Thursday. Their annual Fan Day is set for Friday at 11 a.m. at Burgess-Snow Field, where all players will be available for autographs. JSU will hold an open scrimmage at 2 p.m. in the stadium. Admission is free.